Top critical review
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A big disappointment
on 26 September 2011
When TV producer Fliss Benson receives an anonymous card at work containing sixteen numbers arranged in rows of four, it means absolutely nothing to her and she has no idea what to make of it.
On the same day, Fliss discovers she is going to be working on a documentary about miscarriages of justice involving mothers wrongly accused of murder, when their babies suffered cot-death. The documentary is to focus on three women: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines who are all now free, whilst Dr Judith Duffy who was involved in child protection, is under investigation for misconduct after trying her best to ensure all three women would be sent to prison for life.
For reasons only known to herself, this is not a project Fliss wants to be working on, but then Helen Yardley is found dead at her home and in her pocket is a card just like the one Fliss received, with sixteen numbers on it arranged in rows of four...
A couple of years ago I read one of Sophie Hannah's first novels, 'Little Face' and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then equally enjoyed subsequent novels 'Hurting Distance' and 'The Point of Rescue' and thought I had found a new author to enjoy. However, despite looking forward to reading the next novel from Sophie Hannah, entitled 'The Other Half Lives' I found I was left disappointed, as it was very poor compared to the previous novels.
So when 'A Room Swept White' was published last year, I hoped that this book would see a return to form for Sophie Hannah, but unfortunately I found that once again I did not enjoy the book.
Although the blurb on the back of the book sounded interesting and something I would enjoy, I found that right from the first page, 'A Room Swept White' was a very difficult book to get into.
The story is told in both first person from the view point of Fliss Benson and also the third person and right away I found the ditzy character of Fliss Benson, irritating. She also came across as incompetent and I found myself unable to believe in her character and given the serious and upsetting nature of the plot, it just didn't seem to fit. Even her 'secret' was a kept secret for too long in my opinion.
Fliss also is in love with her boss Laurie, but his character refuses to allow himself to be endearing to either her or the reader. I couldn't understand at all why Fliss was interested in him and it didn't make for interesting reading.
In fact, the characters in the book were really a big let down. Even the reappearance of "Snowman" Proust and detective couple Charlie and Simon from Spilling police station who have all featured previously in Hannah's other books could not save this story and their characters were far less interesting than they were previously.
Incidentally, this novel can be read without knowing about these characters in the previous books, as anything the reader needs to know is explained. And that was another let-down for me as I thought there was far too much needless information about Charlie and Simon's relationship and background included in this book, which prevented any suspense or tension building as it moves along at a snails pace.
Several times I put this book down and had to force myself to pick it up again and finish it. It was only the fact that I have enjoyed some of Hannah's previous books so much that I stuck with this one. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn't.
I also felt that the initial part of the book which intrigued me, in which various people were sent cards with numbers written on them, was not convincing. In addition, various aspects of the plot are simply left in the air. I could never fathom out why for example, the reason Fliss witheld some evidence from the police.
Nothing much seemed to be happening for long periods of the book and I simply couldn't believe in any of the characters, which was tiring and disappointing.
It was a struggle to read this book to the end and it certainly lacks the sharpness and readability of the author's earlier books.